For the past 46 years it has been at the heart of our community. It has championed causes, raised money for our charities and kept us warm and informed during the occasional ‘Snow Day’ but now it needs our help to survive. There’s not much time left to save Swansea Sound.
With so much ‘media’ around these days it’s hard to understand how exciting it was when Swansea Sound launched in Sept 1974. TV and Radio was something that happened miles away. At last we would have our own radio station. Even before the station launched officially I would tune in to the test broadcasts which sounded amazing in crystal clear stereo on FM.
From the 30th September 1974 I ditched medium wave Radio 1 for super stereo Swansea Sound. I’d wake up every morning and put the radio on at the side of my bed to listen to breakfast show host Chris Harper. After years of rarely hearing the name Swansea get a mention on the radio suddenly the airwaves were filled with requests from people living in Cwmbwrla or Llangyfelach, Pentrechwyth or Clydach…and what’s more the presenters could all pronounce them properly.
Not only would you recognise the districts you might even hear one of your friends on the phone in competitions. I remember all the Dynevor boys crowding around Peter Froome in the yard the morning he won an LP on the breakfast quiz. He became a minor celebrity for days as he told us once again how he had rung in and answered the question correctly. Even now I remember the answer was the Philadelphia Soul Band ‘MFSB’.
The ‘phone in’ shows were always brilliant and usually controversial. Local issues that would get people ‘tamping’ found a release valve on Sunday mornings. Having said that hosts like Wyn Thomas and Chris Smart always knew how to fan the flames a little if the passions seemed to be dying down.
Many of the presenters had served their apprenticeship on local hospital radio. Most had local accents, some had a slightly ‘Mid Atlantic’ Welsh twang, whilst some of the others were definitely not local at all.
One of my favourite presenters was a Kiwi named Paul Holmes. He was outrageous and not like anything else on radio at the time. Every night he would attempt to get a reaction to various news stories by ringing people. But he wouldn’t ring the leader of Swansea Council or the Welsh Office. No, he would ring The White House and ask for the President or he’d ring the Vatican and try to speak to the Pope. He wasn’t offensive or rude he was just persistent and very funny.
Paul eventually went back to New Zealand where he became one of their most famous TV and Radio hosts receiving a Knighthood in 2013 for services to broadcasting.
Paul Holmes wasn’t the only one who got a break early in his career from the station. Journalists such as BBC journalists Gary Owen, Rebecca John and even the mighty Huw Edwards all worked in Gorseinon. If the station goes where does the next young Huw Edwards go to get to a foot in the door.
The station always came into its own during a time of crisis or extreme weather. One year when the whole of the region was locked down with artic weather the station kept us all together through the ‘Snowline’. The presenters knew the area they were talking about and with so many ‘local reporters’ on the ground ringing in with their updates. You really got a sense of community and also where you could go to get your bread, milk and toilet rolls.
The Station was really well equipped when it opened. It had one of the first 16 track studios in the area. In the early days it would have live music sessions and radio plays. One of the first sessions I did with local musicians was there under the direction of DJ Stuart Freeman.
DJ Stuart Freeman
We packed up our gear after rehearsing all day in the Montana Park Community Centre and drove down in convoy to Victoria Road. By this stage I’d already recorded in some of the finest studios in London, but this was different, special and we all got home in time for tea.
As the years have passed the station has had to change and adapt. The split between The Wave and Swansea Sound meant that the recording studio was changed into new broadcast studios for the Wave.
But even if the station changed the ethos didn’t. You knew the presenters, they lived in our communities. People like the Swansea Icon Kev Johns is known and loved by the whole region. He’s been to your school or spoken at your family funeral and if not you’re bound to have seen him in Panto or on the pitch at the Liberty Stadium.
Badger and Claire
Badger is a member of the Mumbles Lifeboat team, something that I thought always came in handy during the Mumbles raft race.
Never have these stations been more critical to this region than during this current Pandemic. With so many mixed messages from London, Edinburgh and Cardiff having a local voice keeping us up to date with local news and advice has been invaluable. They have been constant companions to people in lockdown, friends to share and understand the strange days we live in.
Times are tough for the entertainment industry and advertising revenues are sure to be under stress. For a big company like Bauer, the one that owns Swansea Sound and The Wave, reducing the number of stations to cut costs must seem the obvious thing to do.
But this is our station and I don’t think we should let it disappear without a fight and I don’t think it has to be a hopeless cause because the owners Bauer have set a precedent, some stations are not disappearing.
Graham Bryce, Group Managing Director of the Hits Radio Network Brand said:
“Having looked at these markets closely we believe that Cornwall and Lincolnshire in particular have different characteristics and communities that we think are distinct from the rest of England and as a result need a slightly different approach. So as a result, we’ve decided these stations should operate stand alone, retain their local brand and retain local programming.”
If Bauer can do it for Cornwall and Lincolnshire they can surely be persuaded to do it for Swansea.
It might be worthwhile letting Graham Bryce know how much the stations mean to us by dropping him a tweet @grahamdbryce
There is also an online petition you can sign at https://www.change.org/p/welsh-government-save-swansea-sound/psf/share?share=1
I don’t think we should sit back and accept this is a done deal.
Time is short so we must make our feelings known as loudly as we possibly can. Once the stations have gone they will never return and I for one believe they are worth fighting for.